The Boston Celtics began their season with a 102-99 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs have made appearances in the NBA Finals for the past three seasons and won it all in the 2015-2016 season. The most important event occurred early in the first quarter of the game. Celtics forward Gordon Hayward went down with an ankle injury on an attempted alley-oop. Hayward committed to a four-year $128 million contract with the Celtics this offseason after playing for the Utah Jazz for the last seven seasons. This throws a wrench in the Celtics’ offense as the all-star Hayward was expected to lead the team. Hayward last season recorded a career high in points per game (21.9) and rebounds per game (5.4).
The Celtics offense was strong in the opener with the newly acquired Kyrie Irving making his debut for the C’s. Irving spent the last six seasons playing with the Cavaliers and set career highs in field goal percentage (.473), free throw percentage (.905) and points per game (25.2). In the contest, the point guard put up 22 points and dished 10 assists. The former No. 1 draft pick was 4/9 from behind the arc. The Celtics as a whole came together after losing Hayward early. Two highly touted young forwards, rookie Jayson Tatum and second-year man Jaylen Brown, were sources of hope. Tatum scored 14 points and collected 10 rebounds in the contest. In doing so he became the first Celtic since Larry Bird to record a double-double in a professional debut. Tatum was selected third overall in the 2017 NBA draft out of Duke.
Brown also had a tremendous performance, scoring a team high of 25 points for the Celtics. Like Tatum, he was also a third overall draft pick (2016 draft) out of California.
The star of the game was hard to ignore. Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James scored 29 points, collected 16 rebounds and was just one assist shy of a triple double. LeBron’s nine assists was a team high for the Cavs. The three-time NBA Champion was an impressive 12/19 from the field. The season opener was also the reunion of LeBron James with his former teammate and three time NBA Champion Dwyane Wade. The former Heat star was a dismal 3/10 from the field and recorded eight points in the contest.
Going forward without Hayward will be a tough road for the Celtics. Brown, Tatum and Irving’s impressive debuts will have to be consistent in order for the Celtics to be serious contenders in the league. The young talent of the Celtics will be something to watch. Celtics guard Marcus Smart will also be expected to play a bigger role in the offense. After the Hayward injury, Smart came in off the bench and chipped in with 12 points. He also recorded nine rebounds in the game. The absence of Hayward will give ample opportunities for younger players to step up and contribute. These two teams won’t meet up again until after Christmas, so there is plenty of time for the C’s to right the ship without Hayward.